Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Piecing together the '13 starting rotation

Starting pitching has been one of the biggest weaknesses for the Twins in 2012 and it is tough to look to the future and think that there will be help on the way. The Twins seem to be parading every starter that they can from Rochester at different points of the season and the rest of the upper minors is not overflowing with top pitching prospects. The last two pitchers taken by the Twins in the first round, Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers, have both undergone Tommy John surgery and there are always questions marks surrounding a major surgery like this. It's bleak to try and piece together the players that will be given an opportunity to fit into the starting rotation for the start of next season.

Here is a look at some of the names that will be tossed about by the Twins front office when they are making decisions for next year's rotation in the offseason.

The Lock???
Scott Diamond, LHP: If the Twins don't sign a high caliber free agent, Diamond might be considered the ace of the staff for the team next year. The good news for the Twins is that Diamond is under team control for the foreseeable future but the team needs him to continue to pitch at a high level. His 2012 season has been one of the nicest surprises for the club especially considering that he wasn't in the plans for the team at the beginning of the year. His ERA is under 3.00 and he has a very good WHIP of 1.187 in 18 games started in 2012. If the 26-year old lefty can keep this up for the next couple of seasons, the Twins would be extremely happy.

MLB Performance Issues
Nick Blackburn, RHP: At this point, it is looking like Blackburn will be the most veteran pitcher to make the rotation for the 2013 Twins. There have been plenty of times where it looked like the Twins would give up on Blackburn since his performance has dipped so much in the last three seasons. In 2008 and 2009, he had been an adequate pitcher with an ERA around 4.00 while pitching almost 200 innings per season. This year has been a nightmare as Blackburn has a 7.33 ERA with a 1.682 WHIP in 18 starts. For better or for worse, Ron Gardenhire continues to put his faith in Blackburn and it looks like the team is going to stick with him for next season.

Liam Hendriks, RHP: The Twins gave Liam Hendriks a spot in the starting rotation at the beginning of this year but there were some injuries and other situations that prevented some players from being ready. For the second consecutive year, Hendriks struggled during his time on the mound at the big league level. His time at Rochester has been a completely different story as he has been putting up very good numbers at Triple-A. He is averaging over 6.5 innings per start and his 1.99 ERA and 0.946 WHIP are off the charts. There is a good chance that the Twins will give Hendriks another shot when the season is over for Rochester and it will be up to him to show the team that he can translate his minor league performance to the big leagues.

Tommy John Recovery Crew
Scott Baker, RHP: When Scott Baker ran into elbow trouble during spring training, it was a tough blow to a starting rotation that had some question marks. He was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and  he is in the process of rehabbing from this injury. Since he didn't have the surgery until this spring, it is going to be hard for a team to know what they are getting from Mr. Baker but he has stated that he wouldn't mind staying with the Twins organization. He will be a free agent in the offseason but the Twins could sign him to an incentive-laden deal to remain in the organization. It would be nice to have a healthy Baker in the rotation but health is always the question with him.

Kyle Gibson, RHP: Gibson might have already been a staple in the starting staff for the Twins if not for an elbow injury that caused him to miss most of the last calendar year. He is back pitching in the minor leagues for the Twins and the team moved him up to High-A in the last week. In his close to 15 innings pitched so far, he has been on a strict pitch count and he has yet to throw more than three innings. Reports from the minor leagues have him throwing harder than before the surgery and the team would like him to reach Rochester by the end of the season. There is also a good chance that the Twins will send Gibson to the Arizona Fall League to get some more innings under his belt.

Minor League Journeymen
Sam Deduno, RHP: The 29-year old righty is on his third team in the last three years but the Twins seem to be getting the best version possible of Mr. Deduno. He is undefeated at the big league level in 2012 and he has a very respectable 3.35 ERA in seven starts with the Twins. His walk rate is far to high for him to continue this level of success so it will be interesting to see what he can do in the coming weeks. The Twins have given him a chance and he is making the most of this opportunity.

Cole DeVries, RHP: It has been a great story to see the Minnesota native work his way through the Twins system over the last six seasons. At 27-years old and with his tendency to give up home runs, it is hard to imagine him being a long term solution for the organization. There have been some good starts for DeVries but there have also been multiple starts where he has been charged with seven earned runs. He adds depth to the pitching of the organization but fans hope the Twins won't have to turn to him next season.

The Reliever
Brian Duensing, LHP: In an ideal world, Duensing could have spent the entire 2012 season in the bullpen to see what kind of pitcher he would be in a relief role. The team thought that he was a relief option in 2009 and 2010 before being forced to use him as a starter and that same story line played out in 2012. He has shown the ability to get lefties out at a very good clip but righties continue to hit him and that makes it difficult to succeed in a starting role. 

5 Predictions for the 2013 Rotation:

1. Diamond, Blackburn, and Hendriks will all start the 2013 season in the starting rotation

2. Gibson starts at Triple-A but he will be in the majors by the end of April

3. Baker will resign with the Twins but he won't make an appearance until the middle of the season

4. Blackburn won't last the year as a starter

5. Another move will be made through trade or free agency to add at least one more starter


Pat said...

This is a realistic but altogether uninspiring summation of what the future holds. *heavy sigh*

That being said, I'm genuinely intrigued at the possibility of Scott Diamond continuing his adequacy.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

The above comment might be one of my favorite comments from a reader since I started doing this